GOT AWAY WITH IT
by Seb tomato (2002)
A couple of thieves regress themselves to children to create the perfect disguise, but have they become too convincing?
Victoria woke up first. She opened her eyes and for a moment had no idea where she was. Clutched in her arms was a plush white teddy bear.
‘What…’ At the sound of her high-pitched voice, a little girl’s voice, it all came flooding back. It had really happened.
‘Jesus.’ She pushed back the bed covers and looked down at her body. She was wearing a pink cotton night dress with a picture of…who was that…yeah, the Little Mermaid.
She had to smile at that. She got out of bed (such tiny feet!) walked over to the dresser, and looked in the mirror. Bright blue eyes stared back at her, a face she hadn’t seen for twenty years. Amazing. Small mouth, a snub nose, five years old all over again. She smiled, an experiment, and her reflection smiled back, a picture of pure innocence.
Victoria laughed. ‘Well kid, you’ve got to be the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. Did you just steal 25 million, sweetie?’ She shook her head, putting on a mock-serious expression. Then she laughed. ‘No, didn’t think so.’
She touched her reflection, marvelling at her transformation. ‘Well, this is crazy, but it’s actually going to work.’ She smiled again, trying to catch the perfect little girl smile, then she remembered Sarah’s remark about the potential for some mental regression.
She frowned. ‘Don’t get too comfy, sister. Ten days and you’re all grown up again.’
Victoria turned away from the dresser and looked around her temporary bedroom. Did she feel any different? It wouldn’t do to crack up and start thinking like a kid. She looked over at her bed covers. Little Mermaid again, clearly someone was a BIG fan. Was she? She rolled her eyes. She’d never seen the movie, and she wasn’t about to, either.
The walls were painted sky blue with brightly coloured balloons. Very nice, but not exactly her style. She padded over to the closet and opened it. Yikes. A collection of little girls’ dresses and skirts hung on the rail. Patterned wool sweaters and Disney T-shirts on the shelves. And hey, a single pair of jeans in a world of cuteness. Those jeans would be getting a lot of wear, she decided.
Victoria looked at one dress in particular and grimaced. Pink with lace frills: very feminine, utterly childish. She knew the moment she wanted to wear that monstrosity she was in big trouble. She started to close the closet but stopped, spying something else, almost hidden behind the dress.
Uh-oh. A grey pinafore dress with pleated skirt which could only belong with a school uniform. Victoria guessed that was what Sarah meant by lessons in childhood. So she was going to have to go to school for a week. Big deal. For 25 million, five days re-learning her ABCs wasn’t such a trauma.
She closed the closet door and shrugged. She didn’t feel different at all. Not mentally, anyway. Sure, being shrunk to pint-size was a little weird (okay, very weird) but she knew her own mind, and she wasn’t about to start playing with dolls. Victoria grinned, then she remembered Daniel. How was he doing? It was going to be harder for him, probably, practically a baby, and she opened the bedroom door and went into the hallway. The door opposite had a disc on it with a rainbow design that said ‘Dan’. She looked behind her and saw that she had her own ‘Vicki’ sign on the door.
She let out a soft laugh. 'No expense spared, just what I like to see.'She knocked gently on Daniel’s door. No answer. She was about to try again, but decided that knocking on the door of a nursery was a little silly. She opened the door and went inside.
It certainly was an authentic-looking nursery. Enough early morning light shone through a gap in the curtains (Teletubby curtains, of course) to show a room decorated in soft pastel colours. There was an elegant rocking chair, and a closet with clothes for the discerning toddler. On top was a pack of disposable nappies. Daniel had said there was no way he was wearing nappies, so Victoria decided that they were just for effect. She walked over to the crib and gasped.
There was Daniel, fast asleep, it had to be Daniel, but it was amazing. Regressed to a two year old, he was wearing yellow fleece footed pyjamas with the picture of a baby’s building blocks on the chest. Someone else would learn his ABCs this week, Victoria thought and grinned. Blond hair, the roundest face, he was so small and cute! This was going to be a tough week for the master embezzler.
To top it all, Daniel had a blue dummy in his mouth, serving to make him look all the more babyish and helpless. Victoria had to admire Sarah’s attention to detail.
She looked down over the side of the crib. ‘Hey, sleepy head, time to rise and shine.’
Daniel slowly opened his eye, blinked, then stared at the child grinning down at him. ‘Mmmpph!’ He looked confused, then put a hand to his mouth and took out the dummy. ‘Gross.’ Then he smiled back. ‘Is it weally you? Babe, you look astounding! And my voice is totally messed up, by the way.’
Victoria nodded. ‘You’re the babe this week, Daniel. And you’re sounding pretty squeaky, it’s true. Feeling okay?’
Daniel sat up and looked down at his body. He sighed. ‘I’m all wight, I guess. How should a two year old feel?’
‘This is why we’ve got this week, to find out how kids our age behave.’
‘Twue enough. Well to be honest I’m kinda hungwy. And I need to pee.’
Victoria laughed. ‘Well if you’d agreed to nappies like Sarah asked you could do it in the comfort of your own crib, baby Dan!’
Daniel raised his eyebrows, then stood up, using the bars of the crib for balance. ‘I’ll pass, thanks. Ah, sounds like someone’s making breakfast for the troops.’ There was noise from downstairs, cupboards being open and shut, cereal being poured into bowls. 'Let me out of this thing, I’ll go to the bathroom, then we can go down and say good morning to ‘Aunty’.
‘Sure thing, little brother.’
‘Sorry.’ Victoria found the catch that opened the side of the crib, but it was too stiff for her little hands. ‘Oooh sorry, can’t do it.’
‘Jesus. Can you lift me out?’
‘Hmmm.’ Victoria picked Daniel up under his arms - ‘bend your legs’ - and with a distinctly unladylike grunt lifted him over the sidebar. ‘Phew! What a heavy baby! We better ask Sarah to loosen the catch on that thing, or else it’s going to be a very long week.’
* * *
Daniel and Victoria sat in the kitchen talking about their new physical states.
The woman they had hired to perform the age regression treatment listened to their comments and said, ‘It’s all right honeys! Even if you do regress a little bit it’s no big deal. It happens sometimes, but as soon as you get your old body back your mind gets back to normal. You’re only going to be that size for ten days, and it you let your ‘inner child’ out for a while, it’ll make the disguise all the more effective. I know it must seem odd being small again, but if you relax and go with the flow, you might end up enjoying it!’
Daniel snorted. ‘I don’t think so. I’ll learn how to act like a toddler, but I’m not gonna to like it.’ He sat in a highchair, trying his best to eat his cornflakes without spilling half of them on his bib. Two year olds were definitely not the most nimble of people, he decided glumly.
He watched Victoria with envy as she ate her breakfast without too much difficulty. Sarah had even given him a sippy cup for his juice, which was even more humiliating than the bib, but he knew that the chances of an accident with a normal tumbler were pretty high.
‘Cheer up, Daniel,’ Victoria said, ‘It’s not that bad. I tell you, my five year old body is bursting with energy. I haven’t felt this perky since, well, I can’t remember!’
Sarah smiled. ‘Listen to Vicki, Dan. It’s only for a week. Just think, by next Sunday the woman I’ve hired to play your ‘mummy’ will have sneaked you past the police, onto a flight for the States, and no one will ever know that you left! Then you can take the reversal injection and you’ll be back to your old selves by Monday. Easy!’
Daniel had to concede the point. ‘Fair enough. But a week is still a long time when you’re my size. I couldn’t even get out of bed…my crib without Victoria’s help.’
‘Hey, you never did tell me why you’re fleeing the country like this,’ said Sarah, changing the subject. ‘I mean, it must be pretty serious to have to use something as expensive as my AR treatment. Do you want to tell me now?’
Daniel looked at Victoria with the sternest expression his toddler face could manage, then turned to Sarah and replied, ‘I don’t think so. Simpler if you don’t know, okay?’
Sarah shrugged. ‘Sure thing. Just curious, no big deal.’ She pointed to his cereal bowl. ‘All finished?’
Daniel looked at the mess he had made and nodded.
‘Well, let’s get ready for the day, then, shall we?’ Sarah said cheerfully. She carried Daniel upstairs to the nursery and got him dressed for nursery school, and Victoria trotted up behind her and went into her bedroom.
‘Let’s get those jim-jams off, shall we?’ Daniel lifted up his arms and Sarah took off his pyjama top, the lifted his feet so she could take off the bottoms. He saw he was already wearing traning pants underneath, but Sarah pulled them down as well.
‘Hey…!’ He started to protest, but Sarah just laughed.
‘Little boys don’t get embarassed about being naked, Dan. You’d better get used to it.’
Daniel realisd that she was right, and didn’t make a sound while she finished dressing him. By the time she was finished Daniel was wearing a white T-shirt, training pants, red corduroy trousers, white socks and red shoes with velcro straps. He decided it could have been worse.
Sarah picked him up and put him back in his cot. ‘Now you play with your toys and Aunty Sarah will be back soon. Okay, Danny?’
He picked up a fuzzy blue rabbit that was sitting in a corner of the cot and nodded dolefully.
‘Good boy!’ Sarah said brightly and she left the nursery.
* * *
Victoria had found her clothes laid out on the bed, and started to get dressed. First came white cotton panties, then white frilly ankle socks. Then she put on her white turtleneck. She had pulled the plaid jumper over her head when Sarah came into the bedroom.
‘What a clever girl, getting dressed by yourself! You’re certainly not a baby like Dan!’
Victoria smiled, cringing inside at her treatment. It’s just part of the training, she told herself, get used to it.
She sat down on the bed and let Sarah put on her shiny black patent leather shoes.
‘There we go!’ said Sarah, ‘Now pop over to the dresser and I’ll brush your hair for you.’
Victoria went and sat down in front of the mirror, looking at her reflection as Sarah brushed her long blond hair. It felt nice to be taken care of like this, in a way, although she was a little annoyed at Sarah’s patronizing attitude.
‘Let’s see that smile you’re going to dazzle your new teacher with!’ said Sarah. Victoria dutifully grinned, and saw a gap in her front teeth where one of her baby teeth had come out, making her giggle. She had to admit that she looked very cute. It certainly was important to look pretty on her first day at a new school.
Sarah finished brushing her hair and then picked out two pink ribbons from the dresser drawer. ‘Now how about two lovely pigtails for such a special day, sweetie.’
Victoria looked at her hair in the mirror and thought that pigtails would look very pretty. Then she blinked. What was she thinking of? What did she care, how pretty she looked? This was just a little bit weird, and although she knew that she was too intelligent to mentally regress, she decided that it wouldn’t be good to get too carried away.
‘Umm…just a hair band, thanks, to keep it out of my eyes.’
Sarah nodded. ‘Okay, Vicki,’ and she fished out a plastic hair band from the drawer.
Victoria sighed. It would have to be a pink one, wouldn’t it. Oh, what the hell, she’d charm the pants off her teacher, for sure.
* * *
Victoria sat at her desk. Until today it hadn’t occurred to her how boring and silly primary school must be. Did she really have to spend five days listening to inane stories and drawing pictures? She was in a classroom of around twenty boys and girls, all smartly dressed in their school uniforms. The teacher, Miss Walker, in her mid-twenties, seemed unable to stand still for five seconds. It was embarrassing enough to be told what to do by some dim-witted primary school teacher, but why couldn’t she just sit at the front and mark tests like every other teacher Victoria had known?
No, Miss Walker had insisted on fluttering around the room, speaking to everyone in a high, patronizing voice. Victoria had hoped to remain inconspicuous, watch how kids behaved without having to get too involved. She didn’t want to risk the slightest bit of mental regression due to prolonged interaction. The first thing the teacher did was play sounds from a cassette-recorder, and the children tried to guess what made the noise. It was really easy, things like washing machines and telephones.
Victoria was very bored, but the boys and girls were excited, their hands shooting up when they knew the answer. She thought that was silly enough, but then the dumb teacher started to read out stupid poems, and the children had to guess what they were about. Victoria listened to them and became even more bored.
I live in the downstairs cupboard
My job is to sweep every room
I suck up the dust and the dirt
And make a big vroom vroom!
It was all so stupid, but Victoria thought that as long as she kept quiet then she wouldn’t have to get too involved.
She was wrong. That damn teacher had to call her to the front of the class and introduce her to everyone. She stood there, feeling terribly silly in her school uniform. It was horrible, the way all those children, and even the teacher, were going to think that Victoria was just a little girl. It wasn’t fair at all.
‘Now, boys and girls, we have a new pupil starting today!’ the teacher announced with her stupid cheerful voice. ‘I’d like you all to say a nice hello to Vicki.’
The entire class dutifully chorused a ‘Hello, Vicki!’ and Victoria’s face turned red with embarrassment. She quickly bent down and self-consciously pulled at her ankle socks.
When she was standing up straight again Miss Walker patted her on the head in an horribly patronizing way and said, ‘Well, Vicki, why don’t you tell us all something about yourself?’
Victoria was tongue-tied. What could she say? What would a little girl say? She just stood their, feeling so very small and so very dim-witted, as the seconds dragged by.
The teacher smiled. ‘How old are you, sweetie?’
‘Isn’t that lovely. And where do you live?’
‘Twen…twenty Vine Gardens. That’s my Aunty Sarah’s house.’
‘I see. And where’s your mummy?’
This was so embarrassing! Victoria put a hand to her head and started twiddling hair around her fingers. ‘Um, she…Mummy’s in America, but she’s coming home on Saturday.’
Victoria sighed with relief. Now she could go back to her desk, but the teacher wasn’t finished. ‘America’s a jolly long way away, isn’t it?’
Victoria nodded dumbly. Why did the woman have to ask all these questions?
‘Have you ever been there, Vicki?’
The teacher smiled expectantly, and Victoria realised she was going to have give a little more detail that that. But she couldn’t say she’d been to Atlanta on business, she was supposed to be a little girl. What could she say? In desperation she said, ‘Mummy and Daddy took me to Disneyland, an’ we saw lots of nice stuff.’
What an inane thing to say, but the teacher seemed satisfied. ‘Okay hon, that’s very interesting, you can sit down now.’
Thank God for that, thought Victoria as she went back to her desk.
It was strange, but she had felt as nervous as any little girl on her first day at a new school, having to speak in front of the class like that. Why had she been so worried? Last week she had been an accountant, used to giving presentations to blue chip clients, and today she got all flustered just telling a bunch of kids her age and address!
The truth was that Victoria had felt a little strange ever since breakfast. Sarah had given Dan and her a teaspoon of some pink liquid, to help stabilise the physical regression. That was all very well, but it had left her feeling a little dopey and slow. She would have liked to go off somewhere by herself and get her brain working properly again, but instead she was stuck inside a classroom with twenty noisy kids and a dumb teacher asking all those annoying questions. Why couldn’t everyone just be quiet? It was so hard to keep her train of thought with-
Victoria looked up from her workbook to find a little girl with long brown hair smiling at her.
‘Uhhh…Hi.’ What did kids say to each other?
‘My name’s Jenny.’
Well maybe kids weren’t so different after all.
‘I’m Victoria. I mean, Vicky. I’m new.’
Jenny laughed. ‘I know you are, silly, Miss Walker jus’ told us!’
Of course Jenny knew. God, why was Victoria acting so dim? But the little girl didn’t seem too bothered. ‘I’ve been to Disneyland too! It was really brill, an’ I met Mickey Mouse!’
‘That’s…great,’ Victoria replied, with no idea what to say next.
‘Yeah. Do you wanna play with me at play-time? An’ I can show you where stuff is, ‘cause you’re new.’
At first Victoria cringed inside at the mere suggestion of skipping rope and whatever else little girls did, but then she decided that it wouldn’t be such a bad idea. After all, the point of this week, as well as making sure the physical regression was stable, was to practice acting like a child. Victoria knew she wasn’t about to start thinking she really was five years old, so what harm could it do to play with the kid?
Victoria looked at the little girl and smiled. ‘Sure. That’d be fun.’ Suddenly she felt a whole lot better about things, and opened up her workbook like the boys and girls were doing, wondering how Daniel was getting on at nursery school.
* * *
The Rainbow Nursery School had been a real bore.
A week ago Daniel had been making deals for an multinational stock-brokers, and this morning he had been stuck with a bunch of pre-schoolers. Even worse, being two years old, he had been put with the second youngest group, who had only just learned to walk, never mind talk.
He had sat by a big pile of building blocks, feeling miserable, while toddlers yelled and laughed their little heads off. Knowing that he had to try and fit in, he busied himself by building a wall of multicoloured bricks, only to have some snot-nosed brat waddle over and knock it down.
Daniel had wished he was his adult size so he could have given the kid a good spanking. Instead he just sighed and walked over to the Wendy house, crawling inside and doing his best to be invisible.
But it hadn’t worked. One of the play school assistants, some middle-aged frump earning pin-money, had stuck her head through the little doorway and said, ‘Hi Dan! Are you okay?’ She had an incredibly fake-sounding cheery voice.
Daniel was so annoyed that he had wanted to tell her the truth, that he was really twenty seven years old and he had been physically regressed so that he could sneak into the United States where the money he had stolen was waiting for him. But of course he didn’t say that. Instead he just nodded, hoping the silly woman would get the message and leave him alone.
Unfortunately she wasn’t about to do that. She smiled and said, ‘Do you need your nappy changed, sweetheart?’
He was supposed to take a week of this? Daniel frowned, then put on his baby voice. ‘No nappy. Dan big boy.’
The play school assistant clapped her hands. ‘No nappy! What a clever boy you are!’
Daniel smiled, now even more embarrassed.
‘Well,’ said the woman, ‘Come on out of there. It’s time for big boys to have their juice.’
Daniel crawled out of the Wendy house and the woman took his chubby hand in her own and led him over to the other children. She then gave him a sippy cup full of orange juice. She looked at him expectantly, so Daniel dutifully drank some juice, holding the cup with both hands like a toddler.
‘There now!’ the woman said brightly, ‘isn’t that better?’
Daniel nodded, anything for a quiet life. Four mornings of this was not going to be fun.
* * *
After Daniel’s bath, which seemed to consist of a lot of bubbles and a squeaky yellow duck, Sarah wrapped him in a big fluffy towel, and called downstairs to Victoria.
‘Vicky, sweetheart, could you get Danny into his pyjamas while I heat his milk?’ Victoria came upstairs and nodded. Sarah smiled. ‘What a good girl, helping your Aunty Sarah like this!’ Victoria blushed, took Daniel’s hand and went into the nursery, while Sarah went down to the kitchen.
Once Daniel was in his pyjamas Victoria put him in the cot. (This time, fortunately, Sarah had left the side of the cot unlatched.) Daniel sat down in the profusion of stuffed toys, and Victoria sat cross-legged on the carpet beside him.
Victoria sighed. ‘Well you can’t say it hasn’t been different, anyway!’
Daniel nodded. ‘Yeah. But this is the first time we’ve been alone since morning. I’ve been suwwounded by babies all day, and Sarah’s been tweating me like a toddler non-stop. It’s been so embawassing.’
Victoria laughed. ‘Hey, it’s been no picnic for me, either, but we have to spend a week like this. First of all, we have to make sure the physical regression is stable, and we also have to learn how to behave like kids.’
‘Yeah, but a whole week. I’m not sure I can stand it. I know Sawah said the government knew about the wegression wreatment, but I find it difficult to believe that they’ve got airport police looking out for kids acting out of character. I’m starting to feel a little silly to have agweed to this.’
‘Hey.’ Victoria reached over and took Daniel’s chubby hand. ‘Just think of when we’re in America. A fresh start, new identities, all that money, and your boss won’t even know we’ve left the country.’
‘I know. It’s just the way Sarah’s been behaving, that’s all. Fair enough, get us used to being tweated like kids, but she never stops, you know? I spent all afternoon with her and she wanted me to play with all kinds of dumb baby toys. It’s almost as if she wants us to regwess mentally as well as physically.’
‘Come on, Daniel, what would be the point in that. If you end up as a baby then how’s she going to get paid. There’s half a million pounds waiting for her and she sure doesn’t know the account number.’ Daniel nodded. Victoria was talking sense, he didn’t know why he was getting so upset about it all.
‘Here’s Danny’s milk!’ said Sarah as she came back upstairs. ‘But first I want you both to take your medicine.’
Victoria grimaced. ‘Uh, that stuff makes me feel funny.’
Sarah frowned. ‘How do you mean, funny?’
‘Uh…well, kind of slow. Like my heads stuffed up with cotton wool, you know? It made it really hard to concentrate on anything at school. I’m not sure I learned a lot about being a kid, to be honest.’
‘I’m sorry hon, some people have that reaction to the medication, but you have to take it to ensure the regression is stabilised. If you get a good night’s sleep then I’m sure you’ll be right as rain in the morning!’
‘Okay,’ Victoria said.
Sarah gave them both a teaspoon of the pink liquid. Then Victoria said goodnight to Daniel and went back to her room and got into bed. She saw the white teddy bear on her bedside table and tucked it under the covers with her, deciding to look the part of a little girl going to sleep. Sarah came through to tuck her in, and smiled when she saw the bear.
‘So what’s his name?’ Sarah asked.
‘Er…I don’t know.’
‘He’s got to have a name. What if you’re at the airport and you’re playing with him? What are you going to call him then?’
‘Um… Teddy?’ said Victoria, feeling stupid as soon as she said it. Was that the best she could do? She was sure the medicine was making her feel weird already.
But Sarah clapped her hands as if it was the best name in the world. ‘Teddy it is!’ she said brightly. ‘Sweet dreams, Vicki, I’ll see my favourite niece in the morning.’
Sarah turned off the light and left, and Victoria thought about what had happened during the day. There was a lot for her to think about, but she couldn’t seem to keep her eyes open. It wasn’t long before she was sound asleep.
Victoria’s second day at primary school was a lot more tolerable. It still felt a bit embarrassing, being in the same class as a bunch of little kids, but she didn’t feel as silly wearing her primary school uniform. After, she was only pretending.
Victoria sat down next to her new friend Jenny, and Jenny was very excited.
‘Hi, Vicki! Guess what?’
‘What?’ Victoria asked.
‘I’m havin’ a birthday party on Friday! I thought I wasn’t, but Mummy said I could have one after all!’
A birthday party sounded like a lot of fun to Victoria. She’d been feeling all foggy and slow again ever since taking the medicine at briefest time. Daniel hadn’t been help. He’d been even messier with his cornflakes than the day before, and it seemed impossible to have a proper conversation with him, because he’d keep forgetting what he was talking about. But a birthday party! That sounded like just the thing, something to look forward to.
‘That’s fab!’ Victoria said, using a word she had heard in the playground yesterday.
‘Yeah! So can you come, Vicki?’
Victoria frowned. Of course she could come. But then she realised that as a child she would have to ask Sarah’s permission.
‘Well,’ she said, ‘I dunno. But if you come over to my house after school to play, then we can ask Aunty Sarah.’
‘That’d be brill!’ Jenny said happily.
Victoria was glad that her friend would come and play with her after school. She knew that it wasn’t the playing that she was looking forward to. No, it would just be a chance to see how little girls behaved by themselves. It was just research, and that was what this week was about, after all.
Miss Walker clapped her hands, and the boys and girls grew quiet.
‘Good morning, children,’ she said.
‘Good morning, Miss Walker,’ the children chorused.
As they progressed through the first lesson, Miss Walker seemed much more sincere, and her voice seemed more encouraging than patronizing. To be honest, Victoria wasn’t quite sure why she had disliked the teacher so much the day before.
They played a game called ‘Which Way?’. They had a colourful picture of a park, with things like a pond with ducks, and swings and slides. There was a path connecting each part of the park, and the boys and girls had to work out which way the people in the picture had to go to reach each part. Miss Walker explained all about North, South, East and West. Victoria felt a little bored, as she knew about that already, but Miss Walker explained a very clever way of remembering the order of points on a compass:
The whole class laughed when they heard that, and Victoria laughed too. It was kind of funny.
Unlike yesterday, when Victoria felt rather self-conscious and didn’t volunteer any answers, this time she found herself caught up in the ‘Which Way’ game and was happy that she knew all the answers. Time after time her little hand shot up, and Miss Walker was very impressed with her.
‘Did you learn this at your last school, hon?’ Miss Walker asked.
Victoria smiled. And it was strange, but the nasty fog that had been making her head feel all stuffy seemed to disappear. Suddenly she felt absolutely fine…
‘Nuh-uh,’ Vicki replied. ‘My mummy shown me how to do it. My mummy’s real smart.’
‘And you’re a very clever little girl, Vicki!’ the teacher said, and Vicki blushed with pride. Jenny was smiling at her, and Victoria enjoyed being able to impress her best friend.
At play-time she talked to her friend Jenny about their teacher. ‘Miss Walker’s nice isn’t she,’ Vicki said.
‘Uh-huh,’ Jenny agreed. ‘She never gets cross if I make a mistake. An’ she’s pretty, too.’
Vicki thought that this was true. ‘Yeah. I wanna be a teacher when I grow up,’ she said.
‘Yeah?’ Jenny replied. ‘Well, you sure are clever, you knew all the answers to the game today. I think you’d make a brill teacher!’
Vicki grinned happily.
‘Was your last teacher nice, at your old school?’ Jenny asked.
Victoria paused, then suddenly realised that something was wrong with what they were talking about. Of course! She wasn’t really a little girl, she was all grown up. She was just pretending to be little, but she’d forgotten all about that. How long had it been? Half an hour? As long as that? God! She’d spent the last thirty minutes thinking that she was five years old! All it had taken was praise from Miss Walker and she’d turned into a silly little schoolgirl. She had to be more careful!
Victoria spent the rest of the school day worrying about slipping like that again. When the bell for home-time rang she realised that the last thing she needed was to play with Jenny at home. What she really needed was to talk to Sarah about her mental regression, not spend even more time as a little girl. But she quickly thought of a plan.
Victoria walked with Jenny to the school gates where Sarah was waiting with Daniel who was fast asleep in his stroller.
‘Hello Vicki!’ said Sarah brightly. ‘Did you have a nice day at school?’
‘Yes, Aunty Sarah,’ Victoria replied. ‘Uh…I was gonna have Jenny come home to play, but I just remembered…er…we’re going shopping. So she can’t come, yeah?’
Jenny’s face fell, and Victoria was sure that Sarah would get the point and play along.
But Sarah just shook her head. ‘No, Vicki, you must be mixed up. I’ve been shopping already, and we’re going straight home. You’re welcome to come too, Jenny.’
Jenny grinned. ‘Fab!’
Victoria put on a smile too, but inside she knew that she would have to talk to Sarah as soon as they got home.
* * *
Daniel had a better time at nursery school than he was expecting.
The other toddlers didn’t seem as loud and annoying, and Daniel found he could lose himself in activities like finger-painting and the building blocks. Instead of feeling humiliated by the way the assistants treated him, he would just concentrate on the painting of building, and before he knew it suddenly it was juice-time, nap-time, story-time, then home-time. It was rather comforting to have his morning so tightly structured. After all, he wasn’t sure how to behave as a two year old yet, so to have all the grown ups plan his time so well was a great weight off his mind. All he had to do was follow the other toddlers.
But overall, Daniel was glad to be back home, since Sarah knew he wasn’t really a baby but just pretending. He sat in his high chair, thinking that it was actually quite comfortable for someone his size. The seat was padded, and he could let his legs swing, instead of having them stuck on the floor. He found it quite soothing to swing his legs back and forth after the stress of the morning.
Sarah was very cheerful. She really seems to enjoy her job, thought Daniel as she put a plate of fish fingers in front of him. It was embarrassing when she cut up the food for him, but he knew from breakfast time how bad his meal time skills were in his reduced form.
Sarah sat down at the table with a cup of coffee. ‘So how was play group?’
‘Okay,’ Daniel replied. He picked up his plastic fork and pronged a piece of food. Trying to aim for his mouth, he missed completely and dropped the fork onto the floor. Why was he so clumsy?
Sarah saw the upset look on his face and smiled. ‘Hey, it’s all right, just use your fingers, hon. It’s perfectly normal for someone your age to eat with their hands.’
His age? ‘I’m not weally two years old, wemember?’ he said in his toddler lisp.
‘I know, but you’ve got to practice, so you may as well do it all the right way. Which reminds me, how about trying a nappy on for your Aunty Sarah?’
‘No way! I’ll do evewything else but dat. No nappies, no chance.’
Sarah laughed. ‘Okay okay, have it your way. I’m just glad you’re wearing training pants, in case you make a boo-boo.’
Daniel looked down, blushing from ear to ear, and set about his fish-fingers. It certainly was easier to use his hands, and Victoria wasn’t hear to see him, so why not?
After he had finished, Sarah let him down from his high chair and he walked through to the living room. Seeing the TV, he decided that watching the news would be a sensible thing to do after half a day of juvenile behaviour. He looked for the remote, and saw it sitting on a book case.
Sarah came into the living room and said, ‘Well I think it’s nap time for little boys, don’t you? I’ve got a nice warm bottle of milk you can have in your cot.’ She bent down to pick Daniel up and he stepped back.
‘Uh, I think I’ll just watch TV, if it’s okay with you.’
Sarah shook her head. ‘Too much television isn’t good for you, and little boys need their rest, especially after such a busy morning.’
Daniel crossed his arms in a defensive pose. ‘I’m not tired,’ he replied, barely aware of how much like a real toddler he sounded and looked like.
Sarah said, ‘Well I tell you what. You can stay down here and drink your bottle, and if you’re not tired after that you can watch some TV. How does that sound?’
Daniel nodded. ‘Good boy!,’ said Sarah brightly, and she picked him up and sat down with him on her lap.
‘I can sit on my own,’ Daniel protested, but Sarah just laughed.
‘Don’t be silly. Little boys sit on their mummy’s lap, and as your mummy isn’t here, your Aunty Sarah’s will have to do! Now be a good boy and drink your lovely milk.’
She held out the bottle and Daniel took it in his hands, then asked, ‘What happened to the sippy cup?’
‘You can’t use a sippy cup in your cot, it’d roll over and leak.’
It seemed pretty sensible, once Daniel had thought about it. He took hold of the bottle and put the teat to his lips. He was pretty thirsty, and the bottle was nice and warm. He tried to drink, but nothing would come out at first. After a few attempts, however, he managed to get going, and he felt strangely proud at his success.
Sarah smiled. ‘Danny likes his bottle, doesn’t he?’
God, she was so patronising. But after the morning he’d had, it did feel kind of nice to sit on her lap. He did feel safe in her presence. And the milk tasted nice and warm; it seemed to roll down his throat and into his stomach, making him feel sort of cuddly inside.
‘What a good little boy,’ Sarah said softly, ‘drinking his baba for Aunty Sarah.’
What did she call it? A ba-ba? What was she talking about? But it did feel nice, just to sit in her lap and not think about his problems. Feeling her hands as she stroked his head or rubbed his stomach. Daniel began to feel very cosy, and rather tired. He didn’t know why he suddenly felt so sleepy. His eyes felt ever so heavy, and he decided to close them, just for a little while. He wouldn’t go to sleep, just rest his heavy eyes.
‘That’s right, sweetie. Drink it all up and go off to dream land. What a good little boy. What a good baby.’
Sarah kept talking and stroking, and Daniel found it difficult to focus on what she was saying. It wasn’t anything sensible anyway, just baby talk. Why was she talking that way? Was it part of the training? But Daniel’s mind felt too sluggish and slow to think about it. He finished the last of his bottle and Sarah immediately took it away. Daniel felt very full, and suddenly let out a little belch.
Sarah gave a soft laugh. ‘Did baby have a little burp?’
But Daniel wasn’t embarassed. So content, so warm and cosy, he was already fast asleep.
* * *
Jenny enjoyed playing with Victoria’s dolls, but Victoria herself was rather distracted. When Jenny went to the bathroom Victoria went downstairs to the kitchen where Sarah was preparing dinner.
‘Hello, darling,’ said Sarah, ‘where’s your little friend?’
‘She had to go pee.’ Victoria replied. ‘Um, Aunty…I mean, Sarah, I’ve got kind of a problem.’
‘Oh?’ said Sarah. ‘What’s wrong, sweetie?’
Victoria felt embarrassed, but she knew that she had to talk about it. ‘It’s the mental regresh…uh, the thing when you…um, it’s like I feel like kinda like I’m a little girl sometimes.’
‘I mean not all the time or anything,’ Victoria went on hurriedly, ‘Just sometimes. At school and stuff, when all the other boys and girls…I mean the children. Well I get a bit carried away, and I feel kinda weird.’
Sarah bent down and stroked Victoria’s hair. ‘That’s okay, sweetie, there’s no need to be embarrassed about it. Besides, you seem fine to me.’
‘Really?’ Victoria was very relieved that Sarah hadn’t noticed her acting like a little girl. Maybe she was making too much of it. Still, what about when they were playing the which way game? ‘But I was wondering about the pink stuff. It really does make me feel kinda funny, and I was wonderin’ if I could stop taking it for a bit.’ She looked up at Sarah hopefully, but Sarah just smiled and shook her head.
‘Sorry Vicki, but you have to keep taking your medicine. Otherwise you might get sick. Besides, the medicine will help you remember who you really are. You see, it stabilises mental as well as physical regression. So you might feel a little foggy for a couple of days, but soon you’ll be right as rain. In fact, I’m sure that by the time your friend’s party comes around, you’ll have forgotten all about feeling funny.’
That made Victoria think. She certainly didn’t want to be unwell, especially with Jenny’s birthday party on Friday. When she thought hard about it, she definitely had to keep taking the pink stuff if she wanted to have a nice time at the party.
Sarah patted Victoria’s head. ‘Okay, Vicki?’
Victoria smiled. ‘Uh-huh.’
‘Well run along and play with your friend then, sweetie. I’ll call you when it’s time for dinner.’
Victoria nodded and went back upstairs to her bedroom, feeling much better about things.
* * *
After dinner Jenny’s mother came and took Jenny home. At eight ‘o’ clock Sarah went into Victoria’s room to get her ready for bed and found her playing with her dolls. Victoria was so absorbed with dressing one of the dolls she didn’t notice Sarah come in.
‘Bed time, sweetie,’ said Sarah.
Victoria looked up guiltily. ‘Uh…I wasn’t really playin’. Um, I was just seeing how they worked and everything. Jenny likes ‘em, and I thought I should…um…’
Sarah smiled. ‘That certainly is a pretty doll, Vicki.’
‘It’s not like I’m really a little girl,’ Victoria said, blushing. ‘I was jus’ pac…uh, practicin.’ She hurriedly put the doll away in a drawer.
‘I know, hon,’ Sarah replied. ‘Now you get your jammies on while I check on Danny, okay?’
‘Uh-huh.’ Victoria put on her pyjamas and got into bed. She was glad that she had Little Mermaid pyjamas. They were kind of comforting, and Victoria was looking dreamily at the picture of Ariel on her pyjama top when Sarah came back in to her bedroom.
‘There we are, hon,’ Sarah said to Victoria as she tucked her in. ‘Snug as a bug. Oooh, don’t forget Teddy.’ Sarah popped the bear under the covers and Victoria smiled sleepily. It had been a long day, and she was very tired after playing with Jenny.
‘Uh, Aunty Sarah?’
‘Can we watch um…Little Mermaid tomorrow?’
Sarah smiled. ‘Of course we can, hon! That’s a lovely film for little girls. We can watch it before bed-time tomorrow.’ She stroked Victoria’s hair and the little girl snuggled under the covers.
‘I don’t think I’d like it, ‘cause I’m not really a little girl. But Jenny’s seen it, an’ she saw all my Mermaid stuff, an’ if I can’t talk to her about it, then it’d look kinda sus…suspish…uh…’
‘Strange?’ offered Sarah with a patronizing smile.
‘Uh-huh,’ Victoria agreed, yawning. ‘But I won’t like it, prob’ly.’ She rolled onto her side, closed her eyes and clutched the white bear to her chest.
Sarah kissed her on the cheek and stood up. ‘Oh I think you’ll like it a lot, sweetie,’ she whispered. ‘I think this time tomorrow you’ll think it’s the nicest film you ever saw.’ Then she switched off the bedside lamp and walked quietly out of the room.
The next morning there were parts of nursery school that Daniel actually enjoyed.
It wasn’t as if he was turning into a baby, but it was nice to have juice-time, because he did feel a bit thirsty by that point, and nap-time was good as well, because he started to get really sleepy by mid-morning.
All the toddlers would lie on mats and the assistant would play some nice soft music, and Daniel thought he would close his eyes for just a minute, but before he knew it the assistant would be gently waking him up and it was time to listen to a story.
The stories were nice too. All the children would sit in a semi-circle and the assistant would sit in a chair and read from a big book. The stories were simple, and Daniel managed to follow them quite easily. He enjoyed story time especially because all the toddlers were quiet, and Daniel was able to think a bit more clearly. Often he found that in the noise of ordinary play he would get caught up in the excitement. He would start playing as if he was really a two year old, and it would be a lot of fun, but when it was quiet he would remember that he was actually a big boy, and feel all embarrassed.
Still, Daniel was proud of the way he was able to pretend he was a toddler so convincingly. Speaking the right way had been so difficult on the first day (when was that again? Daniel wasn’t sure how long he had been going to the Rainbow Nursery School; the numbers kept getting mixed up in his head) but now it was easy to speak like a little boy. He just opened his mouth and the childish babble came out automatically. He thought it was funny, the way he could fool the assistants so easily.
Yes, play group was kind of fun. It used to seem like such a long morning, but now the time flew by, and when Aunty…no, Sarah, came to pick him up he felt a little stab of disappointment at having to leave all the toys and games for the day.
* * *
Victoria had a very nice morning at school.
She decided that Sarah was right about the pink medicine, because she felt a lot less foggy and slow. She could just relax and enjoy the lesson with her friend Jenny, who was very excited about her birthday party.
However, Miss Walker had obviously decided that yesterday’s lesson was too easy, because this morning’s game was a whole lot harder!
The boys and girls were given a grid with a picture of a garden with plants and a pond. In the game the children had to follow Miss Walker’s directions to help Eric the Elephant (Miss Walker certainly like elephants, thought Victoria with a giggle) mow the lawn without falling into the pond. Miss Walker said that if they got it wrong, then Eric the Elephant would fall with a big ‘splash!’ and get jolly wet, and everyone laughed at that.
Miss Walker called out the directions, like forward four steps, then a turn to the right, for example. Victoria thought she should know this, but for some reason she couldn’t remember her left and rights, and her grid got a bit muddled.
‘Gosh!’ Victoria said to Jenny, ‘This is really hard!’
‘Uh-huh!’ Jenny agreed.
After reading out the directions. Miss Walked went around the classroom helping the children who hadn’t got it quite right. ‘Oh dear, Vicki!’ said the teacher playfully. ‘I think poor Eric needs a towel, don’t you?’
Vicki giggled. Miss Walker was very funny.
The teacher explained left and rights to her, and Vicky thought that she had gotten the hang of it. It was a much harder game that yesterday, but not knowing all the answers made it more fun, somehow, and by the end of the morning she felt that she had learned a lot.
The afternoon, however, wasn’t very nice at all. The last activity before home-time was gym, and when the children lined up to go to the sports hall, Victoria stayed in her seat, searching frantically in her satchel for her gym clothes. When Jenny saw Victoria wasn’t coming she walked back to her desk.
‘C’mon, slow coach!’
Victoria looked at her friend with a worried expression. ‘Uh, I can’t find my gym stuff. Aunty Sarah must’ve forgot to put it in my bag!’
This was terrible, how was she going to do gym now? What if Miss Walker got angry, she didn’t want her teacher to think she was a bad girl! Victoria’s eyes filled up with tears, and she whispered, ‘I don’t know what to do, Jenny!’
‘S’alright, Vicki,’ Jenny said, and patted Victoria’s shoulder. ‘Miss Walker, Vicki doesn’t have her gym kit.’
Miss Walker came up to Victoria’s desk while the other children stood at the door. ‘Is that right, Vicki? Have you forgotten your things?’ The teacher spoke in such a gentle voice that Victoria decided that she probably wouldn’t get into trouble.
She blinked away her tears and answered, ‘Uh-huh.’
Miss Walker smiled. ‘That’s okay. I’m sure we’ve got a spare pair of plimsoles for you, and you can just do gym in your underwear, that’ll be fine.’
But that wouldn’t be fine at all. She wasn’t a little girl who could go running around in her vest and panties, she was all grown up! It was getting so hard to think what to do.
‘Buh…but…I can’t…I’ll look silly…an’ Aunty Sarah…’ Suddenly it was all too much for her to handle, and Victoria burst into tears.
Miss Walker was so nice, she bent down and gave Victoria an extra big hug. ‘There, there, sweetie, don’t cry. Ssshhh, everything will be all right, be a big girl now, hmmm?’
Victoria felt comforted by Miss Walkers hug, and she could smell the teacher’s perfume, reminding her of when Aunty Sarah kissed her good night. She did want to be big girl. She was a big girl, wasn’t she? She just got a little muddled, sometimes.
Miss Walker wiped away Victoria’s tears with a tissue, helped her blow her nose, then patted her on the head. ‘There now! Feeling better, hon?’
Victoria swallowed, then nodded. ‘Uh-huh.’
‘Good girl!’ said the teacher with a smile, and Victoria was relieved that Miss Walker wasn’t cross with her. It would be okay, doing gym in her underwear. Why had she got so upset? Really, sometimes she was just silly.
Victoria smiled and took Jenny’s hand, they joined the line of children and walked to the gym hall together. Victoria was happy that she had such a nice teacher and such a brill best friend, and by the time they had finished the first game in gym class, she had forgotten all about feeling embarrassed.
That evening, Victoria didn’t want to talk to Daniel. She knew they should probably talk about things, but there weren’t any real problems, and she was keen to play with her dolls by herself. Daniel got quite upset about this, but Dan didn’t know how to play properly anyway, and sometimes he acted just like a little baby.
‘Feeling better now, darling?’ Sarah asked Dan as she settled him in her lap with a bottle of warm milk.
‘Yeth,’ Dan said. He did feel better, safe and sound. He always seemed to feel better when Sarah was around.
‘See, you don’t need mean old Vicki when you’ve got your Aunty Sarah to cuddle, hmmm?’
‘Uh-huh,’ Dan agreed. It was true. Victoria had been real mean, not wanting to play with him. He’d just wanted to talk about things, about the plan, because he was feeling a little confused about things. He hadn’t started thinking he was a baby or anything, he knew he was a big boy, but sometimes he just felt a little funny. Victoria was being nasty, wanting to play with her stupid dolls all the time. But who needed her? Sarah was right, and besides, Vicki…Victoria was just a silly little schoolgirl, and Sarah was all grown up. Sarah was such a nice lady, and always knew how to make him feel better.
Dan drank from his bottle and felt very clever. He got to be with Sarah, and Vicki was stuck upstairs playing with her dumb dolls. Serves her right, he thought to himself smugly.
‘I’ve got a special treat for my good little boy,’ Sarah said.
‘Mmm?’ Daniel drank hungrily from his bottle, and wondered what Sarah had.
The woman picked up something from the coffee table beside the sofa and put it in front of Daniel. ‘Do you know what this is, Danny?’ Daniel took the teat out of his mouth and smiled. Of course he knew. ‘Book!’ he said loudly,f feeling very clever.
‘That’s right!’ Sarah said brightly. Then she pointed to some squiggly lines on the front of the book. ‘Do you know what that says, hon?’
Daniel frowned. The squiggles were…words…yes, there were words on the book. He knew he should be able to read them. He probably could, but he was tired, it was almost time for bed. He gazed at the squiggles…the words, but they didn’t make any sense. They must be very difficult words.
He looked up at Sarah with a puzzled look on his chubby face.
‘It says ‘The Baby Book’, doesn’t it?’ Sarah said.
Dan looked back at the book. ‘Uh-huh.’ Of course that’s what it said. He knew that. He put the teat back in his mouth as Sarah turned the pages of the book and talked about the pictures. Daniel enjoyed listening to Sarah as she talked. She seemed to know a kind of story about every picture.
‘Look,’ said Sarah. ‘Here’s a baby ready to go outside. He’s wearing his snowsuit, and his bobble hat, his red boots and his mittens. He looks jolly snug, doesn’t he, Dan?’
Dan nodded. The baby did look warm.
‘You’ve got mittens, just like that baby, haven’t you?’
Dan nodded again. He had nice mittens, they kept his hands nice and cosy when Sarah took him outside, on the way to the shops or play group.
Sarah turned the page. ‘And look here, this baby’s got a big yellow duck to play with in the bath. You’ve got a duck just like that, haven’t you?’
Daniel nodded happily. He liked his yellow duck. It was fun to play with when he was in the bath tub.
‘And here’s a baby with a blue dummy to suck on. You’ve got one of those as well!’
Dan had finished his bottle, and he took the teat out of his mouth, letting a little left over milk dribble down his chin. ‘Uh-huh. Dan got a dummy…uh…I got a dummy for bed-time.’
Sarah smiled and patted his head. 'Well, then. This storybook must be all about you. You must be a lucky baby, to have all those things,'she said softly.
Daniel frowned. But he wasn’t a baby, he wasn’t…just because he sucked on a dummy, and drank from a bottle. He felt upset, he didn’t want Sarah to think he was a little baby, she might stop playing with him…wait! He smiled, and pointed to the next picture.
‘Baby got nappy on. Dan not wear nappy, I big boy.’
‘Oh,’ Sarah said. ‘I’m sorry, I thought you were just a little baby for a minute. But you don’t wear nappies do you?’
‘Nuh-uh,’ Dan replied proudly.
‘Now I understand.’ Sarah paused, then said, ‘But if you did wear a nappy, then you’d be a baby, right?’
Daniel found the question rather confusing. ‘Dan not wear nappy.’
Sarah laughed. ‘Yes, sweetie, but think hard and try to imagine that you did. Then you’ d be a baby, wouldn’t you?’
Dan thought about that. He thought about wearing a thick nappy instead of panties. He closed his eyes and saw himself with a nappy on, sitting in his cot, sucking on his dummy. Yes, then he’d be a baby.
‘Yes,’ Sarah whispered, patting Daniel’s full bladder, ‘then you’d be a little baby who went pee-pee and poopy in your nappy.’
Daniel felt a little uncomfortable when Sarah pressed on his tummy like that. He suddenly felt the urge to pee, he felt the urge rather badly. ‘Uh…I havta to go pee,’ he said, and pushed on Sarah’s knees to get off.
But Sarah kept her arms wrapped around his waist and continued pressing. ‘Why don’t you just stay here and cuddle? If you make a boo-boo, that’s okay. Aunty Sarah won’t mind, she’ll just put you in a nice soft thick nappy, and then you won’t have to worry your little head about pee-pee or poopy… Just like the baby in the picture, see? Aunty Sarah won’t mind changing your nappies, she likes to do nice things for good babies like you.’
Daniel relaxed in Sarah’s arms and thought that it would be nice just to stay in her lap and cuddle. He decided that it would be okay to wear a nappy once in a while, as long as he didn’t forget that he was really a big boy, when a small dribble of warm urine trickled into his training pants, shocking him into action. He wasn’t a baby! Daniel wasn’t sure why, but something in the back of his mind told him that if he wet his training pants things would be very bad.
Suddenly he cried out, ‘Dan big boy!’ and pushed hard against Sarah’s hands. In her surprise Sarah let go and Daniel scrambled off her lap. ‘I go toy-lett,’ he said, and raced out of the room.
Sarah stayed in her seat and shrugged. She decided that tomorrow would be a whole different story.
* * *
Once Sarah had put Daniel to bed, she went into Victoria’s bedroom where Vicki was playing with her dolls. ‘Ready to watch The Little Mermaid, hon?’ Sarah asked.
‘Yeah!’ Vicki answered excitedly.
Vicki put her dolls on the bed and raced downstairs to the living room and snuggled next to Sarah on the couch. She was still wearing her school uniform, which she had forgotten to change out of earlier (strange, but the plaid jumper and frilly ankle socks didn’t feel uncomfortable to wear anymore. In fact, Vicki felt rather smart and grown-up in her school clothes).
‘Did you like that, Vicki?’ Sarah asked when the cartoon was over.
‘Uh-huh!’ Vicki replied enthusiastically.
‘What was your favourite part, hon?’
Vicki thought hard, then said, ‘When Ariel got to be a girl, an’ when she kissed the Prince, an’ when she beat that nasty witch.’
‘Yes it’s a super film for a little girl like you, isn’t it?’
Victoria, felt a bit funny, a little light-headed, then looked up at Sarah and grinned. ‘I’m not really a lit’l girl.’
Sarah raised her eyebrows. ‘Oh. You certainly look like one to me. I thought you were my sweet little niece, Vicki.’
‘Nuh-uh! I’m jus’ playin’ a game. I’m jus’ pre…pretendin’ to be a lit’l girl.’ She smiled mischievously.
‘Well!’ exclaimed Sarah with mock-astonishment. ‘There was I thinking that you were just a pretty little girl.’
Victoria giggled. It was funny to see how well she’d fooled Sarah.
Sarah frowned, as if deep in thought. ‘So…if you’re not really a little girl,what are you?’
‘I’m a big girl!’ Victoria squealed, finding all this hilarious. ‘I’m all gwown-up!’
‘But…if I’m not your Aunty Sarah, then who am I?’
This time it was Victoria’s turn to frown. It was a good point. Who was Sarah? Victoria had known once, but it seemed a long time ago. The pieces turned in her mind, but it seemed like far too much work to put them together. No, Victoria wasn’t too sure who Sarah was at all. Still, it didn’t really matter.
She shrugged. ‘You’re jus’ some lady.’
‘Oh,’ Sarah said. ‘I see. Well I’m still a little confused. Why are you pretending to be a little girl. I mean, I can see that it would be nice, to wear such pretty clothes and play nice games, but you’re such a clever girl, I just know there’s more to it than that.’
Victoria was almost bursting with excitement. But Daniel had told her never to tell anyone about the plan, she remembered him telling her that. She just giggled, and whispered, ‘It’s a sec-cret.’
‘Oh, I like secrets. Could you tell me, then I can have a secret too.’
Something in the back of Victoria’s mind told her that Daniel would get mad if she told Sarah their secret. But what did Daniel know? He wasn’t any fun anymore. He was just a little baby who couldn’t even talk properly. It was much more fun to play with Sarah.
‘You can trust me, honey,’ Sarah said encouragingly.
Victoria nodded. That was true, wasn’t it? Sarah was a very nice lady, and it would be fun to tell her the secret.
She whispered, ‘Me and Dan was naughty and stole some money, an’ now we’s runnin’ away to Ame-rica.’
‘Gosh!’ exclaimed Sarah. She lifted Victoria up onto her knee. ‘How exciting! How much money did you steal?’
‘Uhhh…’ Victoria put a finger in her mouth and thought hard. How much had they taken? Funny, the amount had seemed so important at the time, but now it seemed all blurry. 'Umm, I can’t ‘member. But it was lots and lots!’
‘Well, do you think Dan would remember?’
‘Nuh,’ Victoria said, ‘Danny’s jus’ a baby.’
‘Is Danny really a baby, or is he just pretending like you?’ asked Sarah gently.
‘Ummm…’ Victoria felt confused. Was Danny a grown up just like her? It was so hard to get things straight in her head. Well, it probably wasn’t important. She shrugged. ‘I dunno.’
Sarah patted the Victoria on the head and stroked her hair.
‘That’s all right, sweetie. But I want you to think really hard now. Try to think, where is the money now?’
Victoria smiled. That was an easy one! ‘America,’ she replied happily, glad to know the answer.
‘How clever!’ said Sarah. ‘But how did it get there?’
‘Dan used a com…pooter. He put the money on the compooter, an’ now it’s on ‘nother compooter in America. An’ Mummy is comin’ on Saturday, an she’ll take us to America, an’ we’ll have lotsa money!’
‘Gosh!’ said Sarah, ‘what a super plan! I wish I knew how Dan managed to do that!’
‘Uh-huh,’ Victoria replied. She suddenly felt very sleepy. She snuggled into Sarah’s lap and put her thumb in her mouth.
‘What computer did Danny use, darling? I’d love to see it.’
Victoria just yawned.
Sarah gave the little girl a gentle shake. ‘Just tell me where the computer is, sweetie, then you can go to sleep.’
'Umm…at home…‘fore we came here. Our old house.’
Sarah smiled. ‘Good girl.’ She kissed child’s head. ‘What a good little girl you are, Vicki.’
But Victoria was already fast asleep.
As soon as Vicky got home from school, she rushed to her closet and looked through her dresses.
Aunty got Danny settled in the nursery. She un-buttoned his shortalls and checked his Pullups for wetness, but he hadn’t had an accident, he was still a big boy.
When Aunty Sarah came in to Vicky’s bedroom, Vicky had already laid out the special pink dress - with a peter pan collar and puffy sleeves - out on the bed.
‘Can I wear this dress, Aunty Sarah, please? It’s so pretty!’
Aunty Sarah smiled. 'Of course you can, you’ll look adorable in it.
A quick bath and Vicky was dressed, feeling extra special in her dress, thick white tights and shiny pink mary janes. Aunty Sarah even put Vicky’s hair into pigtails, tied with pink ribbons.
‘There now,’ said Aunty Sarah. ‘Don’t you look lovely.’
Vicky beamed with pleasure. She was so excited about Jenny’s party.
Just then, the doorbell rang. Aunty Sarah carried Danny downstairs and answered the door. It was Amanda, who was baby-sitting Danny for the evening.
Vicky raced downstairs and put on her coat.
‘Pretty dress,’ said Amanda with a smile, ‘you off to see your boyfriend?’
Vicky giggled. ‘No, silly, I’m going to Jenny’s birthday party.’
‘Ah, I see,’ Amanda said. ‘And this must be Danny’.
Danny, feeling rather shy, turned away from the sitter and hid his face in Sarah’s hair.
'Come on, Dan, say hello to Amanda,'Sarah said. ‘She’ll be looking after you tonight.’ But Danny didn’t say a word.
‘I can see he’s going to be trouble,’ Amanda joked, ‘It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for.’
Sarah gave Amanda her mobile number and left with Vicky.
Amanda took Danny upstairs to the nursery. ‘Now, then, big guy, you can play quietly in here until tea-time, okay? I’ve got homework to do so I don’t to hear a peep out of you.’ She lay Danny down in his crib and put the gray plush rabbit in his lap. ‘There you go, big man, I’ll see you later.’
Amanda left the nursery and went downstairs.
Danny was left by himself, looking at the toy rabbit and feeling sorry for himself. He wasn’t used to being left with a stranger, and Vicky had got to go to a special party. Amanda was just a boring grown up, she didn’t seem fun at all, and…
Suddenly, Danny thought about what she had called him. ‘Big Guy.’
He was a big guy. He was a big boy, not a baby. He didn’t need a baby-sitter, he didn’t need…and that was when it all came back to him.
Daniel gasped as he realised how he had mentally regressed. And he felt a stab of fear as he understood that Sarah had done nothing to stop the regression, and in fact had actively encouraged it. What was she up to? And what was she planning to do with him and Victoria?
He had to get help. He had to get to Victoria - if he had been so close to becoming a real toddler, surely Victoria was just as close to becoming a real little girl, especially at a birthday party filled with primary one schoolchildren.
Danny cried out to the baby sitter, cursing his clumsy voice. ‘Manda! Manda!’
Amanda stomped up the stairs, coming to the nursery via the bathroom. ‘Hey, squirt, I just remembered, your mum told me that you still had some cough medicine to finish.’
Daniel looked at the bottle of pink liquid and said, ‘no, ‘manda, don’t wan’ medin. Bad medin, Dan big boy!’ It had only been a few days, but Daniel had forgotten how to speak like an adult. His brain simply couldn’t manage the job.
Amanda sighed and picked Daniel up, sitting down with him in her lap. 'I don’t have time for this, kid, ’ and pinched Daniel’s nostrils. Daniel’s mouth opened in surprise, and Amanda forced the teaspoon of pink liquid into his mouth, forcing Daniel to swallow.
Terrified that the final dose of medicine will cause a final and irreversible mental regression, Daniel pushed himself off Amanda’s lap and runs to the nursery door, but he can’t reach the door knob.
Amanda laughs and walks over to the door, and puts Daniel on his back on the floor. ‘What you running away for, huh? Not afraid of a little tickling, are you?’ And she starts to tickle Daniel’s stomach, making it difficult for him to think straight.
His quick breathing and rushing adrenaline makes the pink liquid work all the more quickly, and soon Danny hears the sound of a baby laughing, and he suddenly realises that it’s him. This is a lot of fun. He dimly remembers that there was something he was upset about, but he can’t quite remember what it was. Yes, Amanda is the baby-sitter, and he is the baby. Everything else fades away, the grown-up thoughts and plans, and all that is left is the feel of Amanda tickling him and he giggle uproariously, and barely notices when his bladder relaxes and he soaks his pull-ups.
Amanda, however, is quick to see the spreading wet patch on the crotch of his shortalls. ‘Oh dear, Danny, I think someone needed to go potty, hmmm?’
Danny looks down at his wet crotch. ‘Danny do a whoopsy,’ he says, a look of faint surprise on his face.
‘You sure did.’ Amanda says. ‘I think you’re too little for training pants, kiddo. Ah, here we go.’ Amanda cleans Danny up and puts a thick night-time nappy on him.
Danny smiles up at his baby-sitter, happy with the attention and enjoying wearing such a soft and dry thing. He doesn’t make a peep of complaint as she dresses him in the blue fleecy footed sleepers. On the contrary, they’re warm and fuzzy and make him feel sleepy and cared for.
But five minutes later, Danny is sitting on Amanda’s lap, drinking his ba-ba without a care in the world.
Vicky had a wonderful time at the party. There were games, and wonderful food, and she was so happy when the grown-ups told her how pretty she looked in her pink dress. Best of all, the only children at the party were little girls - no yucky boys allowed.
After Jenny opened her presents, which included some toys and clothes that Vicky was very envious of - they sat cross-legged on the living room floor with a slice of birthday cake each.
‘This is a brill party,’ said Vicky.
‘Yeah,’ Jenny agreed, ‘I got some great presents, and I’m glad there’s no boys here. Even my little brother wasn’t allowed to come, he’s at my gran’s.’
Vicky said, ‘I’ve got a little brother, too.’ She thought of Danny, at home with the baby-sitter. She wishes she’d had a chance to play with him before she’d come to the party, but she’d been in such a rush. Vicky hopes that Danny isn’t in a sulk with her.
Jenny said, ‘my brother’s called Mark, he’s three. How old’s your brother?’
‘Oh, he’s just a baby, he’s not even two. He’s called Danny.’
But there was something funny about that.
Because Vicky was suddenly sure that Danny was supposed to be older than her, that really he was a big boy. Her paper plate fell out of her hands and into her lap as she realised that she had almost been tricked into thinking she was a little girl. And hadn’t she told Aunty…no, Sarah the big secret last night? She wasn’t sure, but she thinks she might have told Sarah where the money was.
Victoria knew that she had to get home to Daniel, that they were both in serious danger. The journey from Sarah’s house to Jenny’s had only been a short walk, and Vicky thought she could remember the way. If only she could sneak out of the party undetected, she could get back to Danny and perhaps they would find a way out of this trap.
Jenny interrupted her thoughts, saying, ‘Do you want to come up to my room and I can show you what Mummy and Daddy got me for my birthday. It’s really cool.’
‘Oh, yeah…sure. Umm…why don’t you go up first, I have to pee, but I’ll come up after that.’
‘Okay, see you in a tick!’ Jenny said and raced upstairs to her room.
Heart thumping in her chest, Victoria went out of the living room and into the hallway. The front door was right there, and with no one in sight, the coast was clear. Victoria reached up for the doorknob with both hands, praying that it wasn’t locked. The door opened and she sighed with relief, when a voice behind her called out, ‘Vicky, honey, are you okay?’
Victoria turned slowly around. She knew that if she was distracted, then she might lose her adult thoughts, and the way things were going, she might never get them back again. ‘I was a bit hot,’ she said to Jenny’s mother. ‘I was just opening the door for some fresh air. It’s okay, I wasn’t going to go into the street or anything like that.’
‘That’s good, Vicky. It’s awfully dark outside and not a good place for a little girl to be by herself. Have you seen Jenny, I was going to give her this.’
‘Oh,’ Victoria said, ‘she’s upstairs.’
Victoria wondered how she was going to get out of the house now. She cursed her bad luck at having been spotted like this. Worse still, it was getting hard to keep her plan clear in her head. And then Victoria looked at what Jenny’s mother was holding in her hands. It was a doll.
It was such a lovely doll, and Vicky wanted to touch it, just for a moment. ‘Yeah, Jenny’s upstairs and I…I’m going upstairs too, so she can show me her big birthday present.’
That wasn’t the plan, though, was it. That was what she told Jenny, not what she was really going to do.
Jenny’s mother smiled, and held out the doll. ‘Well, then, why don’t you take the doll up with you.’
Vicky thought it might be a bad idea, to hold the doll when she need to keep thinking like a grown up. But it was such a nice doll, and it couldn’t hurt to hold it for a second. She took the doll from Jenny’s mother and smiled.
Jenny’s mother said, ‘well, look at the pair of you, both in such lovely pink dresses!’
Victoria had to giggle, it was true that the doll had a dress very like her own. It’s own party dress, white tights and pink mary janes. Just like Vicky. There was nothing wrong with liking the doll, she was silly for having worried about that. After all, Jenny’s mummy was all grown up and liked the doll, so Vicky could like the doll too and still be a big girl.
‘Yes,’ said Jenny’s mummy, 'You look so cute, let me take a photo, ’ and she picked up her camera from hallway table.
Vicky stood up straight, as she knew she was supposed to, and gave a big smile, as Jenny’s mummy sized up the photo and said, ‘you both look pretty as a picture, a perfect couple of princesses’, then pressed the button on the camera.
Vicky was dazzled by the flash for a moment, and felt unsure of what she was doing next. She closed her eyes and felt a little dizzy, but holding the doll in her hands, she suddenly felt very clear about things. She opened her eyes and said, ‘It’s such a lovely dolly,’ Mrs Thomson. I’m going up to Jenny’s room, now’. And she went quickly up the stairs and into her best friend’s bedroom.
* * *
It wasn’t hard putting Vicky to bed that night. She was practically asleep on her feet. Sarah dressed her in her Little Mermaid pyjamas and stroked her hair as she drifted off.
Then she looked in on Danny, who was sleeping peacefully in his cot.
Sarah smiled. It had taken a couple of hours to track down the money, once she had dropped Vicky off at the birthday party and go on to Daniel and Victoria’s flat. Now she has all the money, transferred not to Daniel’s US account but to her own company’s account. Add to that, the money the American woman would pay for the cute British orphans, five-year-old Vicky and baby Danny, this had proved to be a very profitable exercise.
And in a way, Danny and Vicky did get away with it. In twenty four hours time they will pass through United States immigration without a hitch.
All they have to do is grow up again.